Initiatives | Facts about SCA & AEDs

The UW Medicine Center for Sports Cardiology is actively involved in community outreach programs to improve the health of the public.

      • Nick of Time Foundation – A comprehensive Youth Heart Screening Program and CPR/AED training initiative conducted in partnership with the Nick of Time Foundation.
      • Heart of Schools Project – A model program aimed at providing and implementing school-based AED programs.
      • AEDs and Emergency Planning for SCA


      Nick of Time Foundation

      The Nick of Time Foundation and UW Medicine sports medicine and cardiology physicians have teamed together to develop a Youth Heart Screening Program.  This is a collaborative effort of volunteer sports medicine, cardiology, and primary care physicians from UW Medicine, Seattle Children’s Hospital, and other area hospitals, sonographers, the Nick of Time Foundation, local paramedics, emergency medical technicians, firefighters, and other community volunteers.  The goal of this outreach is to provide a comprehensive heart screen to high school students and student-athletes to prevent sudden cardiac arrest through early detection of heart disorders.  The heart screen includes a comprehensive history, physical exam, ECG, and echocardiogram (if other tests indicate one is needed).  Each student also receives hands-only CPR and AED training.  To date, over 10,000 students have been screened.  The events promote sudden cardiac arrest awareness, provide a critical service to the community, and present unique opportunities for clinical training and research.

      For more information, visit the Nick of Time Foundation:


      Heart of Schools Project

      The Heart of Seattle Schools Project was the collective work of volunteer medical professionals and other community leaders dedicated to making our schools and community safer from sudden cardiac arrest.  Through private funding and other community resources, the goal of the project was to assist the Seattle School District equip every public school in Seattle with defibrillators (AEDs), provide CPR & AED training to staff, and develop a comprehensive emergency response plan for sudden cardiac arrest at each school.  The Heart of Seattle Schools Project was privileged to partner with the Seattle Seahawks, the Nick of Time Foundation, and Seattle Public Schools in this important initiative.  In September 2011, 136 AEDs were implemented throughout the Seattle School District.  In November 2011, the first life was saved as a direct result of the program – a 45 year old who suffered sudden cardiac arrest while playing pick-up basketball at South Shore School.  Currently the project is helping other school districts implement school-based AED programs.

      For more information, visit the Heart of Seattle Schools:


      AEDs and Emergency Planning for SCA


      Facts about SCA:

      • Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is the sudden onset of an abnormal and potentially lethal heart rhythm. SCA is the leading cause of death in the U.S. affecting over 350,000 individuals per year. SCA is also the leading cause of sudden death in exercising young athletes.
      • The annual risk of SCA in young athletes ranges from 1 in 40,000 to 1 in 100,000; however, some athletes are at higher risk, specifically male and African-American athletes.
      • Approximately two-thirds of all SCA cases in athletes occur in two sports: men’s basketball and football.
      • SCA can be effectively treated through prompt recognition, early cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and early use of a defibrillator (AED).
      • AEDs are portable devices that read and analyze the heart rhythm and provide an electric shock to restore the heart to a normal rhythm if necessary.


      Emergency Response Planning:

      • Every school, club, and organization that sponsors athletic activities should be prepared to respond to a collapsed athlete with an acute cardiac emergency. An emergency response plan for SCA with written policies and procedures is recommended to ensure an efficient and structured response to a cardiac emergency.
      • An emergency response plan for SCA including access to an AED increases the likelihood of bystander CPR, reduces the time to defibrillation, and improves survival from SCA.
      • Successful programs require an organized and practiced response, an established communication method to activate the emergency medical services (EMS) system, and rescuers trained and equipped to provide CPR and defibrillation.
      • The strongest predictor of survival after SCA is a short time interval from arrest to defibrillation (shock). However, even the best EMS systems can have delays; the average time from 9-1-1 call to arrival on scene for an SCA victim is 6-8 minutes. In the U.S., the average survival rate for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is < 8%.
      • Research has shown that having on-site AEDs available in public locations such as schools, airports, and casinos to treat SCA increases the survival rate approximately 10 times (to greater than 60-80%!).
      • Many people wonder if AEDs are safe to use. While training is helpful, AEDs come with simple instructions including voice and visual prompts and can be used by any lay responder. The AED will not provide a shock to the heart unless an abnormal heart rhythm is detected.


      Recognition of SCA:

      • Prompt recognition of SCA is the first step to an efficient emergency response.
      • Coaches, sports medicine professionals, and other anticipated first responders to SCA in an athlete must maintain a high index of suspicion for SCA in any collapsed and unresponsive athlete.
      • SCA should be assumed in any collapsed AND unresponsive athlete, especially with no head trauma, and the emergency response activated.
      • Delayed recognition of SCA can lead to critical delays or even failure to activate the EMS system, initiate CPR, and provide early defibrillation.
      • Resuscitation also can be delayed because SCA is mistaken for a seizure. Brief seizure-like activity or involuntary arm and leg movements occur in over 50% of young athletes with SCA.  Thus, seizure = SCA until proven otherwise.
      • Another challenge to recognizing SCA in athletes includes inaccurate rescuer assessment of pulse or respirations. Occasional gasping can occur in the first minutes after SCA and can be misinterpreted as normal breathing.


      Management of SCA:

      • Treatment of SCA begins with early recognition, early CPR (starting with chest compressions), and early defibrillation.
      • The American Heart Association emphasizes the time sensitive interventions for victims of SCA and has outlined four critical steps in a “Chain of Survival” to save lives in the event of a cardiovascular emergency:
        • Early recognition of the emergency and activation of the local EMS system (call 9-1-1)
        • Early cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
        • Early defibrillation (AED)
        • Early advanced life support and cardiovascular care (Hospital)
        • If a player collapses and is unresponsive, rescuers should:

      1)    Call 9-1-1

      2)    Begin chest compressions (CPR)

      3)    Retrieve and apply an AED as soon as possible.

      • All efforts should be made to minimize interruptions in chest compressions both before and after defibrillation.